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Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley denied the assailants involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery access to the slain man’s mental health records.
William “Roddie” Bryan, who joined father-and-son assailants Gregory and Travis McMichael, in a dastardly act of violence, are holding to their “not guilty” plea. However, Judge Walmsley instantly denied the defense’s plan to paint Arbery as an aggressor with mental health problems.
According to ABC News, the 25-year-old slain Black man cannot have his medical records accessed by the defense and used as trial evidence. With jury selection scheduled to start Oct. 18, painting Arbery as a sketchy character seems to be the defense’s primary strategy for getting their clients off.
The judge ruled that Arbery’s medical privacy, even in death, trumped the rights of the trio standing trial. He also concluded that a registered nurse’s “highly questionable diagnosis” that Arbery suffered from mental illness during his first and only visit to a mental health services provider in 2018 could unfairly prejudice a trial jury, NBC News reports.
“There is no evidence that the victim was suffering from any mental health issue, or had otherwise decompensated, on February 23, 2020,” the date Arbery was killed, the judge’s ruling said.
Prosecutors maintain that Arbery was jogging on that date when the McMichael family armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck. Bryan took cellphone video of the moment Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery. He and the father-and-son duo contend that Arbery was a burglar after video cameras recorded him inside a home under construction.
Arbery was unarmed when he was killed by three shotgun blasts at close range.
The McMichaels duo and Bryan were arrested and charged with murder after the video was leaked online more than two months later, on May 5. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case the next day and swiftly arrested all three men.
Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said to ABC News by email that despite the judge’s ruling Friday, he is confident “that the full truth will come out over the course of trial and that the jury will see this case is simply about protecting one’s neighbors and oneself.”
Last month, the judge dealt another setback to the defendants when he ruled that evidence of Arbery’s past incidents with law enforcement, including two arrests, were also off-limits.
With the defense blocked from placing Arbery’s criminal record and mental health on trial, this is sadly another trial the world will watch with bated breath.